Rules for writing numbers: Post #2

Using numbers correctly can make a big difference to your writing.

Using numbers correctly can make a big difference to your writing.

As promised, we are back with more rules for writing numbers!

In our previous post, we talked about the importance of writing numbers correctly. Doing it right makes a big difference in how well your paper is received. So, here are some more tips to help you win at the numbers game.

Numbers in dialogues

If you are writing a story or quoting someone you interviewed, spell out the numbers. Any digit that appears between two quotation marks must be spelt out.

  • DO NOT Use: ‘Our hospital can accommodate 35 patients in the ICU,’ said the doctor.
  • Use: ‘Our hospital can accommodate thirty-five patients in the ICU,’ said the doctor.

But there are exceptions. When quoting from a published source, use the text exactly as it appears in the original.

Series of numbers

If a sentence contains a series of related numbers, stick to any one form—either write in words or use the numerical form. But if another number used in the same sentence is unrelated to the other numbers, use a different form, just to avoid any confusion. Take a look:

  • ‘The boy fixed five metres of the fence.’
  • ‘The boy fixed 12 metres of the fence on the first day and 9 metres on the second day.’

This is an exception to the thumb rule of using words for all numbers below 10, but an exception is should be made here. If you use all words or all figures, it will thoroughly confuse your readers.


As mentioned in the previous post, writing numbers correctly makes your academic writing easy to read. Commas are a big help in this regard. When using a numeric figure that has more than three digits, use a comma after every third digit. Just count three spaces to the left and place your comma. Keep doing this if the number is long and you will get a perfectly spaced figure that is easy for your readers to grasp.

  • 45 years
  • 138 feet
  • 6,821 students
  • 76,532 miles
  • €986,108
  • 6,104,184 vehicles

The goal is to make your sentences look and sound as simple as possible, and numbers play a crucial role in this. Luckily, the rules for writing numbers are quite simple. Use them to your advantage when working on your next paper.

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